Vanderbilt Law Review

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Now, however, a new form of shareholder litigation has emerged that is distinct from derivative or securities fraud claims: class action lawsuits filed under state law challenging director conduct in mergers and acquisitions. The empirical data reported in this article show that these acquisition-oriented suits are now the dominant form of corporate litigation and outnumber derivative suits by a wide margin.

Are these acquisition-oriented class actions just another deadbeat in the corporate governance debate? Should policymakers take action to cut back on the development of this new form of shareholder litigation? In this paper, we argue that, just as with derivative suits and securities fraud class actions, good policy must balance the positive managerial agency cost reducing effects of these acquisition-oriented shareholder suits against their litigation agency costs.

To frame our analysis of acquisition-oriented class actions, we begin with a look back at the history of this debate over representative litigation in corporate and securities law. For six decades, there have been efforts to limit shareholder derivative suits. These suits, in which one shareholder sues in the name of and on behalf of the corporation, are. usually brought to enforce various fiduciary duties that officers and directors owe corporations and their shareholders. They thus can be contrasted to "normal" corporate litigation in which directors determine what actions to take for the corporation. Derivative suits were once said to have promise as a means to limit managerial agency costs.